AirlineReview: United BusinessFirst on TXL-EWR (757)
Not a month ago I got to know the new Business class by Lufthansa and as you could read my rapture was limited. The arrangement of the V-seat, the tight foot area… But let’s first take a look at what other Star Alliance partners do. Today it’s about the flight from Berlin to New York (EWR) in the Business First in a former 757 by Continental. The way back in 5 days is another new product: the new Business Class from Brussels Airlines on the NY track. But let’s get back to the flight. With 8:56 hours flight time it might be long in Eco class, but in Business it’s quite comfortable. While I’m writing these lines we’re crossing the southern part of Greenland and I’m (always) delighted by the ice, rocks and mountains and don’t even want to darken the window, which luckily doesn’t disturb anybody.
The machine is being shipped at counter A15 and arrived from Newark on time (even a little before), so that presumed to be on time. For status customers of United, Star Alliance or guests of the Business First there are two separate counters available. Even though there are only 16 seats available in business class, the counters were heavily used. Anyway, there was no waiting time, so I went through the usual questions. Thanks to the super pleasant lady we even had some fun:
“Have you packed your bags by yourself?” – “Of course, who else?”
“Has somebody given you something to take with?” – “No, am I DHL?”
(laughs) “You travel occasionally, do you? You know I have to ask. Have a nice flight!”
Then I was advised about the lounge. I used the Lufthansa business- /senator lounge at Tegel airport and had a small relaxed breakfast in the SEN lounge. Since it’s already after 8 the lounge is pretty empty, because many business travelers are up in the air already or haven even landed. Short E-Mail check, two phone calls and I’m on my way to the gate. Boarding takes place early at 8:45 and after a fast security check (today again with taking off shoes, frisking even though nothing cheeps) I seat in my comfortable seat 1F 25 minutes before take-off.
The seat itself is a good choice, because my neighbor seat stays unused (it’s actually reserved for the co-pilot, because you usually fly with 3 and one of them sleeps from time to time). But today three other seats are free and the pilot lies in row 4.
The business first cabin bears 16 seats, arranged in a 2-2 configuration. The seats are skewed to the window, but ordered parallel and offer enough legroom, opposite to the new LH product. When both seats are converted into beds there is not too much space, but enough to climb over the corridor seat (which worked out fine in a test). The armrest (on 1F right under the window) can be declined and increases the width of the seat, just like at LH. The seat is controlled by a key panel in the middle console. Functions like sleeping and take off are programmed already, but functions for legroom, backrest and strut can be individualized. Below the reading light you find another switch where you can set the lounge / TV position. Also the reading light is positioned in a way that you can actually use it. At Lufthansa you can’t really use it, because the pillow lies on it and you lie in a kind of fixed seating bowl. As usual nowadays, the one behind me does not see how the seat is adjusted.
When the seat is converted into a bed you have enough space in length (for me 1,75m). The legs disappear under the front seat, respectively under the screen of row 1. A similar variant can be found in the business class of Swiss or Brussels airlines. The width of the seat is sufficient, when the rest is declined. Sleeping on the back is no problem (at least for me). I neither bump on the sides, nor do I touch the feet or knees of the neighbor. Also the height of the “leg shelf” should provide enough space for shoe size 45 (couldn’t be tried out due to missing big shoe sizes ;-)).
The now done bed is comfy, not too hard and not too soft. Just perfect to sleep for some hours, which isn’t bad on a 9 hours flight.
If in the lounge position, the seat provides the ideal position for eating or working. The table is split in two and folds out from the middle console. Disadvantage compared to the Lufthansa seat is that when the table is folded out you cannot stand up. In row 1 this is no problem, because you can put your “stuff” on the screen above. Even when only half of the table is folded out, it’s troublesome to get up by the window.
Who read my other review knows the stuff I carry with me: bag pack with Macbook, iPad, cell, power adapter, magazines and such. This “stuff” can be stored easily. Even though I have two seats today, it would have easily fit in one seat. Under the screen you find a bright shelf, which provides enough space for Macbook, newspaper, amenity kit and such with 10 cm height. Also beneath the armrest by the window there’s enough space to put something. The board magazine is stored in the middle consoler, the socket is placed behind the seating bowl. Besides an international socket they also have a USB, headphone plug and more storage room there – also the menu and saftycard. Okay, one could have handed out the amenity kit and the menu instead of storing it in the seat, but alright. Maybe it’s because people get in the plane at the front and have to step through business first.
Here are a few plusses and minuses:
+ Comfortable and sufficiently broad seat
+ Socket and USB plug available
+ Big middle console and sight protection to the neighbor, much privacy when sleeping
– Seat (as bed) is a little short for big people
– Getting up when table is folded out not possible
– Screen not adjustable in skewness
After we had the choice between non-alcoholic beverages and two sorts of Champaign before take-off (I don’t know if it’s always the same but today there was “Heidsiek & Co Monopole blue top NV 2009/2010” or “Paul Dangin Brut NV”), which can be found with 8 spirits in total on the menu. From Absolute Vodka over Bombay Gin to 5 kinds of whiskey and rum there is something for everyone. If you travel in Economy class, you can get the drinks for 7$ and pay with credit card only. They don’t take cash there, as well as in the duty free shop.
Furthermore there are 5 liquors and Cognac and three beers on board (Budweiser, Miller and Heinecken). Coffee, tea and non-alcoholic beverages like juice, coke or tonic are available, too.
If you prefer wine, United has two white and two red ones and a regional specialty (Riesling) for you.
As appetizer I had the choice between prawns with salad or melon and ham – I chose second. Additional they offer a selection of 5 different sorts of bread and buns with butter.
The table is laid with the grey napkin and a sufficient amount of cutlery and also the dishes make a good impression. While I got my orange juice before take off in a cup, they now turned back to glasses. Then follow the salad, for which I had the choice between yoghurt and vinegar and oil.
For main course you have the choice between 4 dishes or one exclusive menu (which can be ordered any time). Besides my choice of tenderloin with carrots, mangetout and mashed potatoes there is salmon filet with shrimps, four cheese ravioli or a brunch. Actually it’s too early on 10.30 A.M. for lunch and brunch (with scrambled eggs filled crepe, potato pancakes and cherry pancakes) would have been a good idea. The main course was delicious, even though the vegetables were a very soft and could have been a little firmer to bite.
For dessert I was offered a selection of cheese with port wine, grapes and crackers or ice cream with any topping. Starters, appetizers, cheese and dessert are being served from hostess trolley, which leaves you any decision. Especially when it comes to cheese I prefer this, rather than serve it from a tablet. There is no tablet at all: tables are being laid beforehand and courses served on plates.
If you like to have a snack there’s are small offer, or you can wait until short before landing, when they serve a few small things. Today it was a pita-wrap with chicken.
You can control it via screen and partly via remote control in the seat. Even though you cannot skew the screen, you can watch TV while lying. The choice in the IFE is not really too big. There are a few movies, some of them really old, and I miss some new stuff. But since I work or sleep most of the time it usual doesn’t matter. Lots of movies are available in German which might be caused by the point of departure and makes it comfortable for many people.
The amenity kit, sheet and pillows:
The little bag looks nice and is equipped sufficiently. As to be seen on the picture, there is cosmetics and pepper mint candy besides tooth brush, mask and socks. As mentioned it’s not being handed out but already stored in the seat.
I consider the sheet more comfortable than the one at British Airways. It’s comfy soft and warm, which let’s you sleep relaxed. Also the pillow is thick enough and today I even got two of them.
Every employee was pleasant and attentive from entering the plane until leaving it. Setting the table, serving meals and the service all around was coordinated and with two employees completely sufficient and without the long waiting times.
While we’re crossing Greenland we got super tasty warm cookies with chocolate stuffing and warm milk – what more do you want? Maybe I shouldn’t have eaten four of them ☺.
In total besides the service I like the seat more than the new Lufthansa one, but not as much as the new Club World seat by British Airways. Nevertheless a direct flight has many advantages and provides more time to sleep or work, than on a connecting flight. So if you search for a suitable connection from Berlin to New York, try out the United 757. The product can definitely gain points in comparison to its competitors like the airline with the crane.